Houston is one of two cities that will be part of a pilot program for veterans living with or at-risk of diet-related health conditions.
Fresh Connect, a program created through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Rockefeller Foundation, is meant to improve the quality of life for veterans in Houston.
One in six military and veteran families reported experiencing low food security or hunger in 2020. Devon Klatell is the Vice President of The Rockefeller Foundation's Food Initiative and said in a statement that low food security and hunger can lead to increases to the risk of diet-related diseases.
"The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs and The Rockefeller Foundation share a common goal to improve the lives of Veterans and their families who are at-risk for poor health outcomes by increasing access to healthy foods through veteran health facilities," Klatell said.
Fresh Connect will expand on an already existing program known as Food is Medicine, another Rockefeller Foundation program which attempts to integrate food and nutrition into health care. Food is Medicine focuses on Black, Indigenous, people of color, and low-income communities.
Doctor Quindola Crowley, the Chief of Social Work at Houston's Department of Veterans Affairs, said having Houston as part of the expansion makes sense because of its large veteran population.
"We definitely know that we're one of the largest VA facilities in the country. There's about 300,000 veterans in the Houston area," she said.
Crowley added there are around 130,000 veterans who are already a part of the Veterans Affairs healthcare program.
Ralph Cooper is the Veterans Services Coordinator for Cloudbreak Communities and a local veteran. Last year, Cloudbreak Communities unveiled an affordable housing complex in Midtown for veterans. Cooper often works with veterans who experience the same problems he once faced before. He said there's a critical need for food security for veterans who are still getting settled after returning from their service.
"There was a time when I first got out, trying to get back in the world," he said. "Took me about eight years to really get myself together."
Fresh Connect is expected to begin in June and focus on homeless veterans first.